“Rugby Memories: a personal story”

Supporting people living with Dementia, and their families through sporting reminiscence

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As well as being a registered Dietitian currently working for Nutricia, I am also a busy mum of 2 and a carer for my Dad who has Advanced Dementia.   Throughout the past 8 years I have supported my dad in many ways, including keeping him socially active, which became more and more of a challenge as his condition progressed.  One area that has continued to stimulate Dad and help us connect with one another is Rugby Memories.

Rugby Memories is part of Alzheimer Scotland’s Reminiscence Network, where we have groups in Hawick, Inverkeithing, Langholm and West.  This innovative project uses sporting images and memorabilia to stimulate memories, boost morale and self-confidence and help individuals reconnect with the sport they once loved.  Other sports involved are golf, shinty, cricket and now old movies.  Rugby was dad’s sport, and so much part of his past as an ex-Internationalist, so I hoped that he could benefit from becoming involved. Two and half years on, we are still attending the monthly meetings at his old club West of Scotland RFC.

Sessions last approx. 90 mins where we look at photos mainly from 1945 – 1980 to aid recall and stimulate dialogue.  The atmosphere is calm and relaxed and the volunteers do an excellent job in encouraging conversation.  This results in some amazing stories of games, players, tours etc. and conversation can flow in many directions.   Sometimes, we have a specific topic – the best Scottish team of the 70’s etc.

For individuals of all stages of Dementia, Rugby Memories encourages social connections when this part of their world in shrinking, for my Dad, in the earlier days, it meant his friends had a platform to communicate with him, and he was more open and animated to share in Rugby stories. For me, I am continuing to learn about his career, and share in these fascinating stories.

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Now with limited speech, Dad struggles to communicate verbally, but becomes more animated and relaxed when we attend Rugby Memories.  His eye contact is exceptional as he smiles and laughs recognising himself and his peers in old photos, and enjoying the banter that goes on.   For me, we remain connected in a father – daughter relationship, and for Michael White, Project Manager and his team, this is what makes it all worthwhile.

Back in the care home where Dad now lives, we have a Rugby Memories book, which contains a selection of his favourite rugby photos as well as some family ones.  This means that Rugby Memories can continue to support him in-between organised meetings.  Again the effect can be quite amazing, as it relaxes him as he starts to recognise himself and others.  A short 1:1 with Rugby photos may only take 5 – 10mins but the calming and positive effects can last most of the day.

Now as a member of National Dementia Carers Action Network (NDCAN), I’m also on the Football Memories Steering Group, where we are currently looking at how best to evaluate this project, to support more clubs and care homes to provide sporting reminiscence, to those with Dementia and their families.

If ruby played an important part in your family life, you can find out more about the rugby memories by following the face book page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Memories-Rugby-Football-Club/312378075572550?fref=ts. I have also included information about Alzheimer Scotland reminiscence network to, I hope you find it helpful and thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

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Alzheimer Scotland Reminiscence Networks (ASRN) was set up to support people living with and affected by dementia through participation in therapeutic intervention based groups. Originally set up as Football Memories, it was soon realised that there was an interest and demand for similar projects but with a focus on different interests. We now hold therapeutic sessions for football, rugby and shinty – with plans to include cricket, golf and even movie memories. You can find out more here http://www.alzscot.org/asrn

pic-4-ConvertImageLynne Stevenson, External Affairs Advisor for Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition.


I work with charities and key stakeholders to build credibility in Medical Nutrition, with an overall vision to have nutrition integral to healthcare.  I joined the BDA Scotland Board in July 2015, where we are all working together to raise the profile of Dietetics in Scotland, supporting our members and leading and shaping new models of Dietetic practice for the future.   I joined NDCAN, National Dementia Carers Action Network Group in June 2015.  In NDCAN, we all have personal experiences of caring for someone with Dementia, and are committed to campaigning and lobbying to improve the lives of those with Dementia and their families.


2 thoughts on ““Rugby Memories: a personal story”

  1. Well done Lynne! I wish I could find a way to spend as much quality time with my mum, and to help make a difference for others who have this horrible disease. You are a star and I’m sure you’ve made such a difference to both your dad and so many other people caring for other sufferers. Although most of the time mum is still pretty coherent, I can see the familiar signs appearing more often on a weekly basis and juggling her needs with looking after two young children is very difficult, as you will know! I guess as her condition worsens, the things that stimulate her and our conversations will become more limited…. I just have to work out what these things are!
    I too believe that nutrition has a major part to play here, and in so many other ways. We totally underestimate its economic value and much more emphasis must be placed on it. Maybe I’ll return to the nutritional ring one day!

    • Hi Caroline, so lovely to hear from you again, Keeping a connection with your mum is so important. Photo books of favourite family members and occasions are so valuable, and can stimulate so much dialogue. Sport and rugby was dads thing, so I knew rugby memories would work for him. Alzheimer Scotland have also set up movie memories, perhaps your mum would benefit from this?
      I totally agree about the importance of good nutritional care in Dementia. Dad has had times where he needed medical nutrition to help recover from chest infections, and now the majority of his meals are fortified. Getting in quick with prescribed nutritional supplements has averted a nutritional crisis and got him back in track.
      Take care and let me know if I can help you at all

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